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Rare reptiles intercepted by customs


Eight rare salamanders and a natterjack toad have been intercepted by Dublin Customs and quarantined in ISPCA care.

As a result, the Irish animal welfare charity is calling for tougher regulations around the breeding, keeping and selling of exotic animals as pets after dealing with a number of incidents with exotic animals in recent times.

The salamanders and the natterjack toad were illegally imported into Ireland by post from Spain earlier this year. Its believed they were destined for the pet trade market. They were intercepted by Customs officers in Dublin, and were quarantined and cared for by staff at the ISPCA National Animal Centre for the past five months.

The Salamanders will soon be transported to a purpose built facility at the Galway Atlantaquaria. The natterjack toad will be rehomed to the Wild Ireland Education Centre in the coming weeks as it cannot be released back to the wild.

Fire salamanders are confirmed hosts of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (BSal) a newly emerged and highly pathogenic chytrid fungus that infects salamanders and newts. The fungus is potentially a serious threat to salamanders in Europe and North America.

The incident follows on from the rescue of two stray snakes last summer including Penelope the royal python.

More recently an emaciated Burmese python was discovered abandoned in the Wicklow Mountains and an ISPCA Inspector seized a Hermann’s tortoise and an axolotl from a property in Roscommon.

Just last week, two Horsefield tortoises were surrendered into the care of the ISPCA by an owner who felt that they were unable to care for them adequately. A specialist veterinary surgeon subsequently diagnosed that both were suffering from metabolic bone disease caused by lack of calcium in the diet. This can lead to softening of the bones and plastron (shell) of the animals and ultimately can prove fatal.

The ISPCA says it is also frequently contacted by owners of red-eared and yellow bellied terrapins, who are looking to rehome their pets which were bought as tiny babies but which can grow to 12 inches in length. They say it is extremely difficult to find homes for such large specimens as they are so abundant and so difficult to care for.

The ISPCA is urging the public to think very carefully before considering getting exotic animals as pets. This is due to their complex social needs, specific and nutritional requirements, public health risks and also the potential impact on the environment of those species that can become invasive should they escape or be deliberately released.

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